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  • Rikki Lambert

Will Australia suffer as a consequence of Glasgow COP26?

The international climate conference in Glasgow is nearing its final stage. On Wednesday morning at 6.00 am, the president of the conference, Ashok Sharma, released the final negotiating text after some of the negotiating groups had worked late into the night to complete it.

The negotiating text is not the final agreement. It is a synthesis by the secretariat that is meant to represent what it believes is the consensus in the various negotiating groups. There are always criticisms that the text does not properly reflect the views of the parties.

In this case, it is alleged that the text is biased towards the views of the Americans and does not adequately reflect the demands of the poorer countries.

Various commentators have appeared in the media to argue that the draft txt will cause problems for Australia. The main argument is that Australia will have to present a revised target for emission reduction by 2030 and that this target will need to be consistent with keeping temperature rises to less than 1.5%. This is not strictly true.

Under the Paris agreement countries are not required to make revised targets for their ‘nationally determined contributions’ for emission reductions for 2035 until 2025. The poor countries want these to be brought forward and so some countries announced revised targets this year and others intend to announce targets next year.

The COP26 text urges countries to provide new targets next year and by 2023 at the latest. This means that Australia can set a target after the next election and before the one after and still be consistent with the Paris agreement.

If Australia waits a couple of years, it is likely it will be able to show that it has beaten its 2030 target and that it can now set an ambitious new target.

Another part of the text relates to the way emission reductions are measured. Standards have been established in the text that correlates the rate of emission reduction with the likely reduction in the increase in temperature. The important thing to recognise is that the audit is done on a group basis, so the contributions of individual countries are not singled out.

As a consequence, the argument by climate activists that Australia is likely to be singled out for criticism over its reductions is not likely to be substantiated by the text.

The poor countries are unhappy about the part of the text that relates to financial assistance. They are demanding that at least US$500 billion should be provided in climate finance over the five years to 2025, with half of this going to help countries adapt to the climate change they are already experiencing.

Australia has announced that it will provide an additional $500 million for climate adaptation and loss and damage finance but it has said that it will not put money into the global fund because it wants it to go to the Pacific countries.

This has pleased the pacific leaders who believe that Australia is doing a good job in helping them build their resilience. However, there are still concerns on the part of the poor countries that the OECD countries will not agree to more financial transfers, including the use of climate based special drawing rights that have been created by the IMF.


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